Wood's store closing after 60 years

RANTOUL — With a last name like his, it seemed only natural that Jack Wood would begin work at a lumberyard when he came to Rantoul in 1950.

But Wood didn’t care much for that work, so he decided to start his own business selling paint and wallpaper.

“He didn’t get along with the boss very well, so he decided to open his own store,” his son, Bill Wood, said.

It was 1953. Wood’s was first located on 105 S. Garrard Street, selling paint and wallpaper. Eight years later, in 1961, Jack Wood built a new store at its current location, 209 E. Grove Ave.  

“Francis Meliza, Harry Martin, Henry Voss and Lester Thompson were among the guys who helped build it,” Bill Wood said.

And now 60 years after it opened, the business is closing — a victim of the times.

The 65-year-old Bill Wood, who has owned and operated the business since 1979, said it’s time to shut the doors. He is liquidating the merchandise.

Wood said he’s not retiring yet.

“I’ve got a couple kids in college, so I’ve got to make some money someplace,” he said. “Right now I’m mowing greens at Brookhill (Golf Course) in the mornings.”

Wood said he also has some carpet jobs to finish. He hasn’t set a closing date. He said he still has “quite a few screens and windows people haven’t picked up.”

In addition to selling wallpaper and house paint, Wood’s did glass work, sold automotive paint, carpeting and window coverings.  

“We stopped doing automotive paint when all the body shops folded up in town about 10 years ago,” Wood said. “The wallpaper business went kaput about 15 years ago. People stopped wallpapering.”

Those few who still wanted wallpaper would come to the store, look through his expensive wallpaper books and then buy it over the Internet, not from Wood.

The business was also hurt by the big box stores, which can sell merchandise cheaper.

“My main business over the years has been paint and carpeting, and I had a real solid glass business, too,” Wood said.

“Allen Varney worked in my glass department for about 25 years. He was a very good employee.”

The store’s last employee was Kim Oot, who last worked there three years ago. Oot still does the store’s books.

In its hey day, Wood’s had six employees.

His son said Jack Wood had to build the new store because he needed more room. The business was booming.

“I remember the first store,” his son said. “I used to climb on the racks when I was a kid. We had a lot of wallpaper. Wallpaper was very popular back then.”

He said his father, who died in 1979, probably had no inkling that his store would still be around 60 years after it opened.

Like a lot of Rantoul businesses, the closure of Chanute Air Force Base hurt the business.

“Definitely it affected me,” Wood said. “The government spent ridiculous amounts of money. When a new general would come into town they’d get new carpeting, wallpaper, drapery.”

Business slowly tapered off.

“The overhead just got too big for me,” Wood said. “Probably the two biggest things were health insurance and property taxes.”
Bill Wood said Wood’s offered quality goods.

“I’ve always kind of ran a higher-end store. This town probably couldn’t support a higher-end store. Most of my paints were like $45 a gallon. The box stores just beat me up pretty much,” Wood said.

Wood said the store was a family affair. His mother, Harriet, worked there for a number of years, and Wood and his four siblings worked there with their parents. Bill Wood’s three children have also worked at the store.

The business owner said he hates to close the business, but times change.

“It’s sad, but I’m ready to move on,” he said. “There’s been a lot of people in town I know who’ve closed business such as Connie Franzen at Deena’s (women’s clothing store). I talked to Karen (McCartney, daughter of Tony Bilek, who operated a greenhouse business for years).

They said it had to be done.”

Wood said he would like to sell or rent out the building.

He said in a way closing the store is a relief, but he will look back on it with fondness.

“I enjoyed it immensely,” Wood said. “The town’s been good to me. Met a lot of good friends. The main (part) of the town has supported me over the years. I’ve certainly appreciated all that they’ve done.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com


 

Categories (4):News, Retail, Miscellaneous, Business

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